A temple in southern India that is one of the world's largest Hindu pilgrimage centres opened its doors to females of menstruating age on Wednesday to comply with a Supreme Court ruling, but women weren't able to enter as hundreds of protesters fought street battles with police to keep them out.
But later police struggled to control the situation, fighting running battles that left five devotees and 15 policemen injured, according to EP Jayarajan, a minister in the Kerala government.
Besides private vehicles, devotees even stopped and inspected Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) buses and asked young women to get off them Tuesday. Protesters will not be allowed to gather at the base, they added.
Ugly scenes erupted as mobs surrounded and attacked the cars of female journalists.
Kerala has been tense as the gates of Sabarimala shrine open on Wednesday. The devotees can offer prayers till 10.30 pm today.
I can predict what is going on there, I think it is intentional, it's dirty politics they (protesters) are playing. "We will do everything possible to implement the law of the land", said Inspector General of Police Manoj Abraham.
Television pictures showed men surrounding and hitting a auto that appeared to contain a woman journalist, while another reporter was shown being encircled and shouted at while on air.
Footage from CNN NEWS 18 showed police chasing protesters through dense forest near Nilakkal, the main entry point to the temple, which is about 18 km (11 miles) further away. Two have granted bail in the case.
Over 20 people including former Travancore Devaswom Board president Prayar Gopalakrishnan taken into custody in Nilakkal and Pamba for protesting. The police said that the woman, hailing from Tamil Nadu and accompanied by a male relative, was not headed to Sannidhanam but to Pamba.
Catch live updates on women's entry into Sabarimala temple in Kerala here.
The temple is dedicated to Lord Ayyappa, who is believed to have been celibate.
Through the day, protesters had been trying to enforce the centuries-old bar on the entry of women of reproductive age in the temple, which was scrapped by the Supreme Court last month. Pathnamthitta district police SP said that they will not allow any protests at Nilakkal.
On Wednesday, Rahul Easwar told the media that they would not forcefully stop anyone and that they would peacefully protest.